Developer Just Add Water did a great job fleshing out the 3D elements of the Oddworld universe's first game, and what's here is a much prettier, brighter version of a deep platformer puzzle experience. Whether you’ve led Abe through his “Oddyssee” once before or not, this remake is a great platformer that falls contently between indie and mainstream.
You play as Abe, a member of the awkward but psionically-connected species known as the Mudokon. Many of them are part of a custodial caste slaving away at RuptureFarms, a massive meat-processing plant that turns Oddworld's weird beasts into sunnily-marketed junk food. Abe finds out that the next profit-making scheme is to make snacks out of the Mudokons themselves, so he makes a run for it.
Like the original Abe's Oddyssee, New 'n' Tasty is much more than a series of levels to be completed left to right. Once you've escaped the plant's grip, you'll dip into discrete chambers from consistent hub worlds to fulfill large-scale fetch quests. The game's also loaded with cinematics, cutely narrated by Abe himself. Even though he speaks in rhymes, he kind of sounds like he's casually telling you his story from the other end of a bar. The cinematics don't always blend seamlessly into the gameplay that surrounds them, but they're welcome anyway, especially since Oddworld's aesthetic is compelling.
The Mudokon are both more elegant and dopier than the species that keep them down. They're not beneath laughing at a good fart when it comes along, which is often among the Mudokon, but they can also open up portals with shamanistic chants. You've got to be tapped into something cosmic to pull that off, right? Within the plant, vigilant drones electrocute any Mudokon who tries to get musical—um, by singing. All of that goes to say that Oddworld carves out a highly distinguish universe, especially for a 2D game that would only later be complemented by 3D games in the series.
Oh, the gameplay's good too. Abe does much more than run and jump. Occasional wind tunnels carry him to platforms in the game's backdrop. Sometimes you'll pop back out on a platform perpendicular to your original spot as the camera tracks around to keep up with you. Also, every now and then Abe rides the Yoshi-like Elum. These sprints add a nice side of twitch gameplay in a mostly puzzle-based experience.
New 'n' Tasty! is exceedingly charming, though sometimes frustrating too. The game sometimes puts checkpoints in weird areas, just before a rote chore like leading Abe and your Elum down an elevator. And in a few chambers from the Mudokon homeland, you'll need to grab a melodic code from a pedestal to unlock the exit. It's typical RPG stuff; you go up to an object and hit "action." But the chambers get kind of big, and I wouldn't blame you for forgetting whether you've grabbed the code or not. The game doesn't give you any visual reminder, either (couldn't the thing change colors?).
More severe than these two gripes, Abe's movements feel kind of stuck in the '90s (hey, the original game's from 1997). When you sprint off a platform, your momentum is killed and you fall straight down. Abe will also annoyingly bounce off walls when you run into them. Yeah, I know that Mario does that too (in his 3D outings), but here it just feels like a waste of a few seconds in what's supposed to be a puzzle-centric game anyway.
Together, these things mean that sometimes you'll have an area totally figured out in your mind, but making Abe follow through like you want him to takes a few tries, especially if your last checkpoint is before some boring motions. It helps to know that Abe's movements are modular instead of smooth. Tap left or right and you'll take a single, consistently-sized step in that direction. Hold jump and Abe will happily close the gap between him and the ledge a step away.
Taken altogether, New 'n' Tasty still makes the Oddworld experience totally worth it. The game is more charming than it is frustrating; you just have to go into it knowing that it's a bit of a dungeon crawl where you have to keep track of the greater world around you rather than a straightforward platformer. Based on the continued relevance of 2D platformers, it makes sense that Just Add Water would want to bring the game back to new (and nostalgic) audiences nearly 20 years on. It's a first-time visit in my case, and I'm glad not to be missing out.